Animal rights activist found guilty after re-trial

13/07/2010

A 50 year-old-man, Mel Broughton, from Northampton, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit arson in a campaign against Oxford University, after a retrial at Oxford Crown Court, which concluded today, July 13. He was also sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Broughton was originally convicted of the offence by a jury in February 2009, and successfully appealed his conviction in February this year. The Court of Appeal ordered that he should face a retrial, where he has been found guilty for a second time.

The trial, at Oxford Crown Court, heard that Broughton, leader of the campaign group SPEAK, assembled incendiary devices using sparklers, firelighters and petrol. He then used these in an arson attack at Queen's College sports pavilion on 18 November 2006. Similar devices, which failed to ignite, were found under a portable cabin at Templeton College on 26 February 2007.

Broughton was arrested at his home on 12 December 2007 after forensic analysis located DNA evidence suggesting he had been in possession of the devices found at Templeton College. A search warrant executed at the Semilong Road address located further evidence linking Broughton to both offences.

The court heard how sparklers and a battery connector were found in a water tank and various documents and lists, demonstrating Broughton's interest in the University and those associated with it, were also hidden around the flat.

CPS Thames and Chiltern Complex Casework Unit lawyer, Denis Burke, said: 'Mel Broughton has always claimed that he was only a peaceful protestor. His conviction today demonstrates that, in fact, he was willing to commit criminal offences against legitimate businesses and institutions for the furtherance of his cause.

'No matter what your personal convictions are, putting property and lives at risk through the use of incendiary devices can never be justified. Our society supports the right to free speech and to campaign peacefully, but, where there is evidence of criminal behaviour, regardless of the perceived cause, a prosecution will almost certainly follow.

'This case was not and has never been about attacking free speech or the right to protest. The prosecutions case centred purely on what we alleged were criminal acts.'

Detective Superintendent Mark Jones, of Thames Valley Police, said: 'A lengthy and thorough investigation has today been rewarded with the right result.

'The evidence showed the jury that Broughton's interest in the animal rights cause went further than that of a legitimate protestor. He has been proven to be someone who believes direct action, in the form of planting explosives and setting fires, is acceptable. By doing so, he has shown that he is willing to risk the lives of other people for his cause.

'The conviction today demonstrates that detectives will continue to pursue all lines of enquiry available, even many months down the line. And as science provides an increasingly effective tool in the fight against extremism, anyone considering crossing the line between reasonable, lawful protest and criminal activity should take.'